Kyoto process slowly dying, LCA stuck

| October 06, 2009, Bangkok | IST: 7:30p.m
More than 2000 activists including farmers, fishermen, indigenous movements, climate activists and NGOs from across the world took to Bangkok streets on October 5, 09. They demanded climate justice and an ambitious and equitable deal. The march ended in front of the United Nations Conference Centre, the venue for the Bangkok Climate Change talks.

With just two more days to go, the negotiations in Bangkok remain deadlocked. It is becoming increasingly evident that the Kyoto Protocol is slowly dying away with almost all the Annex I countries turning away from it.

The negotiations in the AWG-KP are almost dead as no country is ready to commit to the second phase reduction targets. EU, which has for long been claiming a moral high ground, is the latest villain.

The US has maintained that they will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Till now EU was hoping that the US energy bill would be passed before Copenhagen and therefore there will be some sort of legal commitment from the US to reduce its emissions.

But it is clear now that the US Energy Bill will not be passed in time for Copenhagen. So EU, in Bangkok, was faced with a situation where it would have committed a reduction target (EU has already announced target of 20% by 2020 from 1990 levels) without any commitment from the US.

Comparability of (reduction) efforts for all the Annex I countries has therefore become a major issue here in Bangkok. Japan, the other major party under Kyoto, has also expressed reservations about continuing under a Kyoto regime.

Developing countries have been asking the Annex I parties to finalise their phase II reduction targets. For US, they have proposed that even if the US does not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, some arrangements can be made under the other working group, the AWG-LCA, where US is also involved in the negotiations (unlike AWG-KP).

Under these arrangements, the US can have mid-term and long-term reduction targets with comparable efforts as other Annex I countries have made under the Kyoto Protocol. This is not going down well with the EU. There is growing tension between the US and Annex I countries, more specifically the EU.

Faced with this, the EU is slowly chickening out of the Kyoto process and is saying that they would prefer one single deal instead of having two processes (the KP process and the LCA process).

The EU says that all the bits and pieces of Kyoto can be accommodated in the new legal instrument. Developing countries are opposing these.

Shyam Saran, Indian Prime Minister’s special envoy on climate change, said while addressing a gathering of NGOs here today that developing countries (G77 and China) are not in favour of dumping the Kyoto Protocol in favour of a new legal instrument, just so that the US can be accommodated in the new deal.

“We have proposed other alternatives under the LCA through which comparability of efforts of US and Annex I parties can be achieved,” he said. But this is not happening.

Developing countries are seeing these attempts of dumping Kyoto and having a new legal instrument as efforts by developed countries to dilute the entire process. Bali Action plan calls for an enhanced action on mitigation. This means that further more ambitious targets are required.

But the move by developed countries to dump the existing processes and instruments is being seen as an attempt to weaken the existing levels of commitments and obligations for Annex I nations.

“The Annex I countries are coming down to much lower level of obligations. We have opposed this. We will not sign any such deal,” Saran said referring to the attempts to dump Kyoto and have a new legal instrument.

He added that no progress was being made in the KP working group as no Annex I country was in position to announce the reduction figures. Yu Qingtai, the Chinese ambassador said that he has not heard a single developed country give an assurance that Kyoto would not be killed.

The stalemate in the KP process is being reflected in the entire negotiations here in Bangkok. As things do not move in KP, the negotiations in the LCA are also stuck because the developing countries are clearly not in a position to move further till Annex I countries announce their targets.

Slowly but surely it is getting clear that no progress will be made at Bangkok. The negotiating text in the AWG-LCA might be a little shorter and little more structured, but that’s about it. The real issues remain unresolved.

Most seasoned negotiators say that it is pointless to negotiate on the key areas like long-term targets, finance and technology transfer, until there is a clarity on the US reduction targets and the second phase targets of the Annex I countries.

Till this happens there will be no deal in Copenhagen.